The addition of new high speed lines would not only provide capacity, but also help free-up space on existing lines, and encourage more local investment in transport improvements to reduce road congestion in urban areas, claims the consultant.
Atkins has undertaken the research to update the business case for a North - South high speed line, building on work undertaken for the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) between 2001 and 2003, and more recently in support of the Lord Eddington's report into transport economics.
"It is clear that a high speed rail network should not only be viewed in terms of its benefit to relieving congestion on the rail network," said managing director of Atkins' transport planning division, Andy Southern. "The economic gain could also be extremely significant.
"Our modelling shows the impact would be felt by local communities as well as the business traveller choosing to go by rail rather than air. There is also potential to reduce overall carbon emissions from transport in the UK," he said.
The report shows high speed routes on the east and west coasts could cost £31 billion to build, but deliver more than twice that in economic benefit in the first 60 years.
The gain would be from staff productivity with significant journey time savings – an hour to Birmingham, three hours to Glasgow. A new High Speed network would also mean companies further converging around major cities served by the new lines. This would lead to greater business to business activity, and a deeper pool of potential employees.
The report looked at future capacity needs, assessing the impact of the expected upgrades to the network set out in the government's High Level Output Specification and recent passenger growth trends.
If recent trends continue, with higher numbers of travellers switching to an improving rail network, then capacity could be exhausted quicker than expected – perhaps within a decade, according to the research.